Saturday, March 24, 2012

Javanese Wedding

GeoTagged, [S6.86523, W107.62710]

Notice there's an "in-law" in the background...the bule.
At the wedding reception I was rather offended because people kept asking if I was the "pembantu" which means helper or servant. Towards the end I asked why everyone thought I was a maid, and was greeted with laughs at my question...
The Indonesian word for "in-law" is "menantu"... Friends of my family had been asking if I was "menantu" not "pembantu"....hahahahaha!

Monday, March 12, 2012

News-hungry American Fish in a Javanese Pond

GeoTagged, [S6.29119, W106.88064]

March 12, 2012
I feel sick listening to the NPR Foreign Dispatch News. It makes me realize how isolated I am from the world. The Indonesian news I watch almost exclusively covers news in Indonesia. The last international news I saw was about conflict in Pakistan and it was very brief. Sometimes I feel like I live in such a remote place, but I live only an hour away from the gargantuan city of Jakarta! Sometimes I flip through the 12 channels that my family has, and even though about half the channels are "news" channels, there will be no news coverage. Just now I tried to find some news and the only news I could find was a story about how this Indonesian vegetable could be made into a music instrument... Not that I don't find that cool and interesting, but after listening to my news pod-casts from the end of February, beginning of March, well... I know that the world isn't exactly lacking on news stories. I'm actually rather surprised that news stations here don't cover more stories about Syria--obviously there are a lot of important events going on there...devastating events! But I wouldn't be surprised if this lack of news coverage is from a lack of dispatched journalists, you can't get the scoop on a story if you don't have people on the scene. And even though theses channels seem to be big corporations, well, compared to American news corporations, I don't think they are that big. Maybe even rather small. So, I wouldn't be surprised if there's a lack of international news coverage because there's a lack of resources to get out and get those international stories. Indonesians are pretty linguistically oriented--as far as most of them speak two languages fluently (their local, native language and then bahasa indonesia)--but as far as international languages they are not exactly known for being proteges (almost everyone that I've met exclaims that they've been learning English since kindergarten or elementary school, but they still can't hold even a very basic conversation...actually, embarrassingly enough, I've yet to meet an English TEACHER that can carry on a conversation beyond "how are you today?".... After that it's an effort on my part to try and understand their English). My point being that I can see international language capability tying into the international news complex.
I finally took a picture of my fish pond--it's not a great one though. But you can see the bridge plank and a fish! I like to include pictures with my blogposts, even if it's a digression.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Making Connections

GeoTagged, [S6.29119, W106.88064]

March 7, 2012
I still cannot believe it's already March. How time flies by! The "Selamat Datang Amy" letters still hang over my bed in my host bedroom. The sister whose room it used to be hand made and colored the message so that I would feel more at home. Many a times I feel like beginnings are much easier than endings. At the start of any relationship there are no hurt feelings, broken promises, miscommunications, or hard feelings. All these things happen over time and by the end of something they can be very hard to surmount or let go of. Every relationship worth an owl's hoot requires both parties to contribute to the well-being of the other party. I don't know how many times I've heard the saying that a relationship is "give and take." The parties function best in their relationship when they are mutually supportive, understanding, caring, kind, and forgiving. Each party should value the other's opinion and accept the other's abilities and limitations. These are not easy things to do, so really a relationship only holds together if the two parties like each other and enjoy the relationship dynamic. This is my nineteen-year-old knowledge of the workings of relationships. I've never been married or even in a serious relationship, but I've learned a thing or two from observation of those closest to me. When I think about the relationships I'm making here, the friendships that connect me to Indonesia, I realize how hard relationships anywhere in the world are; what I mean is that I'm here to live with a completely new family for an entire year and I'm still trying to get a hang of this relationship business with my own parents. I'm thankful to be able to have such personal insight into another culture and see displays of common humanity show through a culture that seems so different from the one I've grown up in. While it can be excruciatingly frustrating to try and blaze a path of cultural understanding, one of the best balms is to remember the beginning and the fount of people's actions; I've found that people's intentions are usually good and though their actions may not accurately execute their intentions, the important thing is to remember where a person is coming from--her or his context--and know what one values in a relationship; hopefully one will choose to accept the good intentions and value peace and understanding over indulging pride or revenge.
Why am I such a serious teen, ugh. Hahah :)
Funny anecdotes:
•My geology teacher is impressed that I can name the continents...
•I lost my AFS phones somewhere along my journey down from Tangkuban Prahu...oopps!
•My friend added me on Skype today at school & he saw my skype picture. I had forgotten that my profile picture is a me with a towel over my wet hair wearing my pajamas, I look really goofy in the picture and I'm making a funny face too--they thought my picture was funny and I was a little embarrassed for still having up such a güber picture--originally I had taken it to show my mom a super recent image of my face while the skype video wasn't working.
•I have a bizzillion and one hilarious stories from times when I hung out with the other YES scholars! Ask me about them when I pulang kampoeng!

I am excited to graduate with my class! I plan to order a formal kebaya for the occasion and my friend Mila promised to do my hair traditionally, wahoo!

Always Sticking Out

GeoTagged, [S6.29119, W106.88064]

Look at that mask in this picture...
I feel like I must look like that sometimes because when I walk down the street or go anywhere away from exclusively friends, I'm stared at as if I am wearing some kind of outlandish mask; some people are shocked by my face, some people find it scary, and still other people think that my very existence is the funniest thing they've ever witnessed. And I live an hour outside of the gargantuan capital, international city of Jakarta. And all that Java Jazz.
I know that it's very strange & rare to see "bule", which means that Indonesians don't quite know how to react to my simple presence. Since my arrival, I've constantly experienced a lack of privacy in just...well living a "normal" life & going anywhere without being interrogated as to why I am existing in whatever place I am existing, etc, etc. The typical scenarios are as follows:
# Scenario 1: I am walking down a street. Minding my own business. Maybe even deeply engaged in conversation with a friend. Indonesians see my "tinggi" self and notice my flashing "pirang" hair. I'm found out & cannot hide; the rest of my journey is soundtracked by
•"buLE!!!!!! [foreigner, but kind of an insensitive nickname for foreigners]"
•"naon sih, kok bule?!?!?!? [Sundanese for "what the freak, a bule?!?!?]"
• "buset, ada bule! [like "holy cow, there's a foreigner"]"
•Any combination of the following English phrased which don't sound like English because all the "r"s are rolled & the pronunciation very Indonesian:
"Misssterrrr, ey, Misssterrrr!"
"Vwhat es yur nem??"
"Good morrrrnING! (regardless of time of day)
"Howvarrre yew?"
#Scenario 2: I go to a store, office, or other kind of building it would be normal for people to visit. The employees notice one by one & start pointing me out to each other; whispering amongst themselves Teasing one another about English language skills ensues. I pretend not to notice in hopes they will get the idea that I'm not a carnival freak. Then the situation takes one of two turns: they muster up gumption enough to question me; or they coyly interact or avoid interacting with me. If I'm feeling particularly irked by being so blatantly gawked at and I feel that my humanity has been particularly forgotten, then maybe I will blow their mind and ngomong sesuatu pake bahasa indonesia atau bahasa sunda [say something in Indonesian or Sundanese]. Then they are either too shocked to continue whispering like a 5th grader about me in front of my face, or their disbelief girds them with boldness to find out my story. When people meet me they always ask the following questions:
1. What is your name? (Siapa namanya?)
2. Where are you from? (Asli dari mana?)
3. Where do you live? (Tinggal di mana?)
4. Why are you in Indonesia? (Kenapa di Indonesia?)
5. Who do you live with? (Tinggal sama siapa?)
6. Are you comfortable in Indonesia (Betah di Indonesia?)
7. What do you like to eat in Indonesia? (Suka makan apa di Indonesia?)
8. How long have you been in Indonesia? (Sudah berapa lama di Indonesia?)
9. Do you have a boyfriend already? (Sudah punya pacar, belum?)
10. What religion are you? (Agama apa?)
You get the idea. Indonesians are very curious and usually not afraid to ask foreigners the personal details about their lives. My own school headmaster asks me almost without fail every time he sees me if I have a boyfriend yet! Sometimes I feel like I should just be flattered at being treated like a star--and at first it was a lot easier to be called out & asked for photos everywhere I went...but I'm honestly really starting to empathize with celebrities because I experience first hand how dehumanizing it can be to always be the walking photo op. It's one thing when people ask about me out of pure curiosity, but often I feel as though people interact with me only for the "glam" factor. I feel stuck up even dropping that last term but in Indonesia there really is a "glam" factor that comes with talking to/taking a picture with/having the phone number of/being Facebook friends with
I don't mean to complain or be whiny, but it really is not a considerate or sensitive thing to intrude upon people's lives simply because they look different from you. They're uncontrollably curious, I know---but if someone is in a wheel chair it would be rude to go up to them and straight up ask them why; If a woman is wearing a jilbab, it would be rude to go up to her and ask her why; If a guy was covered in tattoos from head to toe it would be rude to go up to him & interrogate him about why he chose to cover his body in tattoos: my point being that people have a right to look how they are/how they want to look without everybody having to know why...appearances, decisions, disabilities, etc are not public property and not everyone's business.
Okay, so also maybe I'm feeling a little frustrated when people I just meet ask me if I'm "betah di Indonesia"... sure it's polite protocol for them to ask but it's so superficial because I know they expect me to give an enthousiastic "YA!"
My real answer--which would go something like, "Actually I struggle to enlighten people on the downfalls and unacceptability of sexism and forcing people to pick one of five religions"--would not be dealt with well & people would not know how to act. A funny scene to imagine, though! ;)

The attached picture is of a Sundanese parade celebrating "penyunatan" or circumcision--which seems to be performed distastefully late here. The parade was going down my street & there were little boys of maybe four or five years old being carried on rocking-horse sized animals. My mamah explained the general idea by gesturing with her pinky... because unfortunately at that time I didn't understand the Indonesian word for circumcision. Since she is seorang Jawa Tenggah (native of Central Java), she couldn't explain the significance of all the masks & animals in the parade.

Later I will write about the teacher-student dynamic which varies greatly from that considered "professional" in the States. An example so people don't freak out & think the worst: It's a "good/nice thing" if a teacher treats a student to snacks at the cafeteria. In the States maybe an elementary teacher would buy a student lunch if they forgot their lunch or lunch money... But it would be weird if a teacher came up to a student & told them to go pick out what they wanted from the snack shop, his treat. It would just be weird & unprofessional in just about every situation imaginable in the States.
Anyways, next week I'm off of school so I'm going to try and rally up my host fam to take one of the vacations they've been talking about since I got here.

I'm not gonna lie, I'm missin winter right about now. And I never got to go to an Ash Wednesday service--the one where ashes are put on one's forehead & one is challenged to remember one's mortality--I always love being reminded that I have limited time left on this Earth, so I need to make it count.

I don't need an evening worship service to do that, though. I can step outside & be reminded by anyone that I am an outsider & different from everyone else; I take it as a challenge to expand people's horizons; challenge how much of the world they consider part of their community; & be reminded how far away from my starting point I am--what an opportunity I've been given to learn.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Happy Birthday to me

GeoTagged, [S6.91859, W107.60972]

March 2, 2012
Today is my Birthday. I overslept & missed school because I lost my cellphone yesterday (its alarm usually wakes me up) & my iTouch alarm sucks & did not wake me up! Yesterday I just got back from visiting with my contact person in Bandung, so my family thought I was tired and didn't wake me either. Around 10 AM my mamah came into my room & woke me up by wishing me happy birthday & kissing me on my cheeks. We've been having some cultural differences lately, so we discussed that for a several minutes & then I took my morning shower. My mamah & I ate breakfast together & I expressed my wish for her not to refer to my USA fam as "broken home"; this led us to discuss our thoughts on divorce. That was interesting. Then she worked in her office at home & I journaled some & then read my Lonely Planet book about Indonesia. Later I drank some tea & had a coconut-soaked rice cake. I noticed my sister had come home from school. Nothing good was on TV so I went back to reading in my room. Later in the early afternoon, my sister & mamah surprised me by coming into my room with a little birthday cake ("because Amy is little" haha) & singing happy birthday. It was a nice surprise. We went to the kitchen/living room & I cut the cake. My sister & I ate our slices in front of the TV & she shared that later my aunt & uncle were coming from Tegal. My mamah came in as we finished our slices & shared that my Papah & Dea would come home late tonight, too. Everyone scattered back to their business. Later Andrew stopped by & told me he would take me on a date at about this time....

Later he came by to take me to a surprise location... KARAOKE!
So I was really excited to go karaokeing at the place because it's really nice and gots swagg. When we stepped in the door there was another surprise! Anket & Nathan had come to Karawang to surprise me & go karaokeing! They brought me a birthday cake and cupcakes, too! We sang karaoke and then they surprised me again and had my mom waiting on Nathan's skype account to talk to me! They rock! :)